Abstract: "Movies and Trade Wars": The Case of the Italian Motion Picture Industry from the 1920s to the 1960s

Marina Nicoli


Under what circumstances do states intervene in regulating creative industries? What are the rationales behind this intervention and how do they affect industry dynamics? In the 1920s, trade in filmed entertainment started to be completely controlled by the United States, and the American movie industry had soon to face daunting barriers in many markets, especially those in Europe. Trade restrictions (by taxes, tariffs, and quotas) in the cultural field were justified by the belief in national cultural sovereignty and the need to counter American imperialism. On the other hand, U.S. movie companies strenuously defended the free trade regime in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their products. The distinction between trade policies and cultural policies is missing in existing works, and this leads to a lack in the understanding of the evolution of the motion picture industry. Policy makers have worked to promote and regulate the movie industry not only to gain economic goals but also to suit broader national purposes like defending national cultural sovereignty. In this paper I will focus my attention on the Italian movie industry from the end of World War II to the 1960s. The shift toward democracy and the international success met by Italian movies highlights differences in public policy choices within a changed political and cultural environment.  Access to the historical archives of Sezione di Credito Cinematografico (created by fascism in 1935 for movie financing) at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro helped me to work on fresh sources and to start digging into the topic of protectionism and free trade in the movie industry. The analysis is based on a dataset of the Italian movie industry from 1945 to 1965. The archival documents contain the official requests made by a specific Italian movie company to get access to credit loans and funds.